Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I've been pondering the disappearance of culture.

As a child, my mother told me stories. She told me all the stories. On quiet days, near sunset, I remember going into her room. She would pull out her jewelry box and we would go through each piece. The jewels became anchors for me. Little shiny bits of the past. Each having its own tale to tell. Things are like that. Trees and rocks and land are like that. It's never been a stretch for me to see the souls of the inanimate.

I'm not sure how Mother knew that I had the memory to hold all of these things. I'm certain she did not suspect those stories would end with me, since I have no small ones to whisper the histories to. No small ones to sing the old songs to. I write to leave them here--but honestly, most of that knowledge will die with me. There was just so much of it, you see.

I see the same thing all around me here. But it's a willful death caused by the dearth of close listeners. I didn't realize I was special. I never thought myself so. But I must be, for I don't see many willing to hold the stories in their souls--to bear that responsibility. Jimmy is like me. I think that's why we get along so well. But we are unusual people.

It's not an evil thing--it just is. The lore written down by the Firefox project in the 1960s is for the most part, extinct knowledge. It is now the stuff of legend and no longer recognized and practiced. The generation following that generation kept much of that lore--but much of it is still strange to them. That generation is in their 70's and 80's now. Those of my generation hold even less of the knowledge and it is fuzzy. The youngsters are caught up in the modern world in a way that makes it difficult to imagine or incorporate the old stories. This is how culture dies. It fades away like a lost god weeping for worship.

This is sad, I think. I so admire Japanese culture for its ability to keep old and new together. I think we could use a bit of that reverence.

If you have little ones, consider spending some quiet time--away from the soccer practice, away from the sports and all the things that make this life so hectic--and curling up in a dim room with the relics of your past to tell the stories. Pass on the lore. Honor the ancestors.


  1. Jo said...
    I applaud you Rosie for telling it like it is. I have made it a point to tell my children the stories of our past and then again am blessed enough to be able to tell the same stories to my grandchildren.

    Living so far from town like we do, when the grands are only distracted by nature when they are here.

    Bless you Rosie.....
    Mike Golch said...
    Rosie,I agree that our culture has gone by the wayside. we donot share like we did long time ago.Traditions have not been passed down like they used to.oral family histories are gone.I miss that the most.
    truffula said...
    My children ask to hear these stories. They are young (four) and very interested in growing up, what they were like as babies, how they have changed, and so on. I think all children are probably interested in these things. It's as natural as can be to widen the view in these conversations, to talk about mama and daddy and to tell the stories of our lives thus far, the stories of Oma and Opa, the stories of the special objects in our home, the stories of plants and of animals, oh, just everything around us.
    Jbeeky said...
    I swear, that is why I want a cabin in Maine so bad. To hold on to the past and help my children grow a strong preference for things that have stood the test of time. Hope you are feeling good today, Rosie.
    threecollie said...
    Culture is being killed by that glass and plastic box that every living room centers around. Wish I remembered more of my grandpa's stories...he was a fine teller, we were just not the good listeners. Glad that you were and we benefit.
    Granny Sue said...
    Rosie, that's why I'm a storyteller. I moved to the mountains in the 1970's and never looked back. We farmed the old way, lived without electricity, learned how to grow and make and do on our own. We've grown away from that life in most ways, although we still garden, can, gather wild foods, have chickens and hogs, heat with wood and such. My sons can keep up with the old timers in any discussion of old ways of living.

    Then I found stories, and I learned to tell them. You are a natural storyteller, Rosie. Have you ever considered doing it for schools, libraries and festivals? Children lap them up, and so do adults. I just got home from telling stories at a library and three schools. At each place the children were lively, interested and wonderful listeners. They know how to listen--we just need more people telling the stories and singing the old songs.
    (nice side benefit--I get paid for it).
    sighing said...
    I came home raving mad at my father one day when I was in my twenties.
    I found out from an old neighbor that my dad had a pet crow (Jimmy) that used to steal shiny objects from around the neighborhood and hide them in his nest.
    Why didn't my dad ever tell me?
    I was pissed.
    My kids and my niece and nephews know ALL KINDS of stories.
    My heart jumps every time they ask me to tell one because I know that means that they're special to them too and will surely be passed down to their kids/grandkids.

    You are the queen though.
    Please keep it up.
    My Sunday morning routine is:
    1. up with the sun
    2. big mug of tea
    3. turn on computer and read Rosie.
    4. relax and enjoy
    I highly recommend it folks.
    kazari said...
    Hey rosie,

    there's an awesome book i read, maybe 10 years ago called 'kitchen table wisdom'. it's in part about the necessity of telling stories, so we know where we come from. i've been meaning to tell you about it for ages...

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